This week we consider Step Two of the Twelve Steps of recovery as presented in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Since its publication in 1939, the Twelve Steps has guided many from the depths of alcoholism and addiction. Over twelve weeks, Inward Grace will post the reflections of Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Priest, and the author of Breathing Under Water. Rohr’s book is recognized as a spiritually, insightful interpretation of the Twelve Steps.
For this recovered alcoholic, the Twelve Steps presented a way out of the “bondage of self” best described as insane thinking followed by egoistic and unhealthy behaviors which halted my spiritual growth. Before I was guided to Alcoholics Anonymous, it was near impossible to move beyond my own needs and wants which were fueled by an unremitting sadness and deep resentment. My life was mess and yet deep in the midst of this never-ending, self-imposed hell, I somehow recalled some Source from which I could “ask for help”.
In Step Two, a “willingness” appeared. In this willingness, I admitted my need for help. With this admission, a shift in consciousness from self-loathing to hopefulness came into my awareness. It’s important to note, this willingness appeared when all was lost, when the emptiness was so real, it could no longer be ignored. This was a moment of Grace. It is likely this unmerited gift had presented “Itself” many times however for some unknown reason finally, finally, I surrendered to Something Greater.
Please note, Inward Grace maintains a clear distinction between spirituality and religion. The Inward Grace disclaimer:
“The word ‘spiritual’ does not refer to religious matters. All activity which drives the human being forward towards some form of development-physical, emotional, mental, intuitional, social–if it is in advance of her/his present state, is essentially spiritual in nature and is indicative of the livingness of an inner divine entity.”
We came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Rohr writes: If we are to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, then we will have to come to that belief by developing the capacity for a simple, clear and uncluttered presence. Those who can be present with head, heart, and body, at the same time, will always encounter The Presence, whether they call it God or not. For the most part, those skills are learned by letting life come to us on its own terms, and not resisting the wonderful underlying Mystery that is everywhere, all the time, and offered to us too.
All we can do is keep out of the way, note and weep over our defensive behaviors, and keep our various centers from closing down–and the Presence that is surely the Highest Power is then obvious, all embracing, and effective. The immediate embrace is from God’s side; the ineffectiveness is whatever time it takes for us to “come to believe”, which is the slow and gradual healing and reconnecting of head, heart and body so they can operate as one.
Both movements are crucial: the healing of ourselves and the healing of our always-limited and even toxic images of God. This, of itself, will often reconnect all three parts of our humanity into a marvelous receiving station. A true God experience really does save us, because it is always better than we thought we could expect or earn.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.